For more than 130 years, a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has loomed over New Orleans, but that tenure came to an end Friday afternoon as workers removed the monument.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced in 2015 plans to remove four Confederate monuments from the city’s public spaces: the Lee statue; an equestrian statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard; a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis; and the “Battle of Liberty Place” monument, which commemorated a white supremacist uprising against the city’s racially-integrated Reconstruction government following the Civil War.
City council members approved Landrieu’s plan in December 2015, and after more than a year of court battles, removal began last month as workers removed the Liberty Place monument. The Jefferson Davis statue came down last week, and the Beauregard statue was dismantled earlier this week.
The Lee statue has stood atop Lee Circle — previously known as Tivoli Circle before also being renamed for General Lee — since 1884. It removal was undoubtedly the most challenging of the four monuments; the 16½-foot statue sits atop an 8-foot base, which itself sits atop a 60-foot pedestal, all of which rests upon a 12-foot granite base which extends another 12 feet underground.
City officials closed the circle and rerouted streetcar traffic on Thursday evening, and the removal work took most of the day on Friday. The statue was lifted off its pedestal shortly after 6:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
Mayor Landrieu gave a “special address” concerning the monuments’ removal at Gallier Hall on Friday afternoon.
“I knew that taking these monuments down was going to be tough,” Landrieu said. “But you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing, and this is what that looks like.”
“Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians,” he added. “A message about the future. A message about the next 300 years and beyond.”
Landrieu called the monuments “symbols of white supremacy.”
“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity,” Landrieu said. “It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is a history we should never forget and one that we should never, ever again put on a pedestal to be revered.”
The four monuments are being stored at a city warehouse until determinations are made about where they may end up. Landrieu’s office said Thursday that the city would solicit proposals from nonprofit and governmental entities to relocate the statues. The monuments would have to be presented in a “proper historical context” and won’t be permitted to be displayed on public property within Orleans Parish.
City officials haven’t announced immediate plans to rename either Lee Circle or Jefferson Davis Parkway, where the Davis statue was located.